I have worked long and hard to teach my kids about dinnertime. It’s not about eating, although yes, you do need a vegetable to enter your body every once in a while. It’s about talking with each other. Sharing what you did that day, telling family stories over and over again.
In Savannah, the waiter was so impressed by our kid’s behavior in the restaurant- and it was a nice restaurant with no kid menu- he brought the chef out to meet us.
I have two kids, he said to Jeanine and I. I can’t imagine taking them out to a place like this and having them sit? Never.
And I am reminded of a friend’s advice to me- go out often. Keep doing it. Even when it means taking turns eating, taking whoever is acting up out of the restaurant. But don’t give up.
I passed on the advice. Start small, I said. And work your way up.
My kids passed around the glass of wine I had. Took a deep sniff.
Grape-ish, Ben said.
C’mon, I said.
Jake took it. Strawberries. No, just really a lot of black cherry.
Zachary stuck his nose in it. Chocolate?
How can wine smell like chocolate and taste so nasty? Ben asked.
So we talked about wine.
When we left, a few diners smiled and nodded to us as we passed. You can see the relief in their faces they are not in a restaurant paying top dollar for a meal and listening to kids scream.
The last couple nights in Florida, though, I found people were listening in to our family conversations. I didn’t think we were being that loud.
Will you buy me a Mercedes? Ben asked one night.
Grandma would have bought me a Mercedes.
I started to laugh. No, she would not have. My mother would not have bought her grandson a Mercedes. Of this, I am sure.
How about an Audi?
Miss M has an Audi!
Miss M is Zachary’s teacher.
Miss M has a job, I explained.
Is there anything you’d buy me?
Well... I said, Grandma did buy a car that I shared with my sibling. We had to pay for gas, repairs, but she did buy it.
What was it? A Cadillac?
No, it was a Ford Pinto.
And I told the story of the Pinto and it’s exploding gas tank and how my mother bought it because she did not believe we could make it go more than 55 miles per hour.
She was wrong.
At the end of the meal, and the story, a woman from the next table leaned over.
I loved the Pinto story, she smiled.
Thank you, I said. The boys all looked at me, smiling.
Mom, Ben said to me as we walked outside, you should have told her about your blog.
The next night? I noticed the couple next to us were laughing when Ben was telling the story about how he and his friend had come across the Teletubbies at one o’clock in the morning. We then all launched into our favorite Teletubbie moments.
They got up to leave before us and the woman came over and smiled, thank you, she said. You’re children are wonderful.
I smiled and nodded, thinking, not always. Believe me, not always.
It is curious to me how unusual it is to have kids who sit at the dinner table and eat. Talk. Laugh. Share. It’s not about the vegetables or too many rolls- although I do keep an eye on all of that. I’m not above the ‘two more bites’ rule or settle down and have a carrot.
But it’s in between discussion of why wine smells one way, tastes another, when you order lobster- in Maine- and when you don’t- in Florida.
And stories. Always stories.